I know I sometimes make myself crazy thinking about money and how I might earn more and spend less. I don’t think I’m really any different from you though. If you’re a lot like me and everyone else who does pretty much the same thing, I want you to consider something. Are you already thinking about things like getting a new a job or a better job? Getting a raise in pay? Earning a bonus? Winning the lottery! Whether you are 18 or 80, money is a huge factor in our thoughts, dreams, and lives. But the real question to me is “how much do you really need?” Can lots of money really guarantee your happiness? Maybe you’ll be very happy and then again…maybe not.
If having lots of money makes you happy, then by all means you should go for it. Figure out all the new and best ways you can earn it and perhaps you will fulfill every dream you have ever have dreamed. Wouldn’t that be great! Having money is a way to fulfill your greatest desires for not only for a great life for you, but it can be blessing to help others who aren’t able to make do because of their own problems and misfortunes. You can help yourself and others and that’s very cool.
That’s not always the way things work out unfortunately, and because of that, many people remain stressed, in debt, and feel like they’re all by themselves in this world of living paycheck to paycheck. They’re literally spinning their wheels on the so called “road to success.”
Awhile back, I met with a young woman, we’ll call her Anna, who was having serious money issues. In her early thirties, she is like many single people who, lacking a college degree, are working in a job that pays a lower wage than she had hoped to have by this time in her life. She earns about $11.00 per hour. That’s just $22,880 a year. She has her own apartment but is falling deeply behind in debt from her rent and monthly expenses. Her credit cards are maxed. She has no health insurance, no savings, and she has no retirement plan. Sound like anyone you might know?
Anna has a 30-year-old boyfriend we’ll call Derek who is a sometimes-resident of her home as she has been romantically involved with him for a long time. He also is working at low wages because he is partially disabled and can only work part time (with wages subsidized by Social Security’s supplemental security income (SSI)). The combination of those two sources of income totals $16,380 per year. Combined, the couple earns $39,660 per year. Derek lives with his parents during the week, but on weekends is at Anna’s apartment kinda-sorta living for free and using his own money for “fun”. Now I’m not a relationship counselor (although I might play one on TV if an offer came in!) but I could see that this kind of “relationship” was a bit one sided and probably not proceeding along the path the young lady was looking to have. So what can these two 30-something’s do together? Are they destined to live in a world where they just can’t make it on their own?
All three of us sat down and talked about their situation and we discovered some things we’d just simply have to change to help them live comfortably within their budget. After meeting with them and talking about their relationship and goals, I determined it wasn’t for any lack of effort that these two were up the creek without a paddle, so to speak! So, what to do?
The first thing we talked about was the living space. Sharing an apartment full-time would accomplish a real big goal: making the rental and expenses affordable by sharing it between their two incomes. The point I was making here was if they felt they had a solid enough situation, this sharing thing would benefit them both. If this wasn’t the right thing, then I would have simply recommended that Anna seek out a roommate. Sharing the rent and expenses will always make this type of situation better and in this case, a 50/50 rent immediately brings a benefit of $425 a month to her all by itself.
Sharing and having a roommate is a sure way to get closer to financial stability. In the United States and Puerto Rico, according to US statistics as of 2015, 7 states’ apartment rentals averages range from $520 a month for a 2 BR apartment to $850 per month. The rest of the US (43 other states) is even higher, some much higher. Fortunately, these two live in Pennsylvania and the apartment the young lady is renting is $850 per month plus electricity.
We then took a look at everything they were doing, a very serious look at their expenses, and what they must do together so they might be able to improve their situation. That was what they really wanted to do as a couple and building a budget with a plan to get out of debt seemed logical and doable. So here’s what we came up with:
|Water/Sewer/Gas Heat||Included in rent|
|Car Payment (1 car)||$ 199|
|Car Insurance/Gas/Maintenance||$ 125|
|Cable TV/Phone/Internet||$ 129|
|Entertainment/Dine Out||$ 100|
|Medical/Dental Insurance and Care||$ 205|
|Debt Payments||$ 300|
|Personal Care||$ 25|
|Cell Phone Service||$ 60|
|Retirement Savings 401k||$ 125|
|Emergency Fund||$ 125|
|Life Insurance||$ 30|
|Derek’s Salary and SSI||$1,365|
|Less Income Taxes||-$ 500|
This works out to a balanced budget and provides for paying off debt and saving for both emergencies and retirement! If you do the math, you will see that the monthly budget comes to be about $45.55 per person per day. Track all of your income and expenses carefully, and be sure to review your progress at the end of each month to make adjustments as needed.
Clearly there are other things they can do to help balance their budget. Cutting the cord on cable, for example, might save them even more. Or they could take on a side hustle or two to earn some extra money. But as a basic budget, only $45/day per person works just fine.
Will they be happy this way? I can’t be sure. Happiness isn’t just about your finances, and we all know that. But we also know that financial problems can be a huge source of stress and worry in life and especially in relationships. What this pair needs is freedom from worry about money and debt, savings for emergencies, and plans for their healthcare and retirement. What they want is probably much more and undefined. But the important thing is they can sleep each night and work on the dreams that they may have each day. That dream is achievable if they plan properly and plan for success!
While you may not have to live on $45/day, it’s good to know that it’s possible to do. Evaluate your own situation and decide if you’re spending more than you need to live a comfortable life.
Have you been dealing with mounting debt? Do you have a plan to get out of your financial trouble? What inventive ways can you increase your income or cut your expenses and make your goals happen? How does a budget make your life better?